U.S. Appeals Court To Weigh In On Gay Marriage In Four States, Including Tennessee

Sophy Jesty, left, and Valeria Tanco, second from left, were legally married in New York before moving to Knoxville. The couple sued the state last fall for refusing to recognize their marriage. Credit: Daniel Potter / WPLN

Sophy Jesty, left, and Valeria Tanco, second from left, were legally married in New York before moving to Knoxville. The couple sued the state last fall for refusing to recognize their marriage. Credit: Daniel Potter / WPLN

Editor’s note: We incorrectly stated that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, last year. We have corrected it to say that they struck down part of DOMA. One section of it still remains in law. 

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments Wednesday on whether Tennessee has to recognize the marriages of three same-sex couples who were married in other states.

In total, the judges will hear cases from four states dealing with same-sex marriage. This is the first time the appeals court has taken up the issue.

Tennessee’s case deals specifically with three three couples who moved here after getting married elsewhere. They sued the state because it didn’t recognize their marriages, and a U.S. district court sided with them earlier this year.

Now, the decision is in the hands of three judges from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees this region. Suzanna Sherry, a Vanderbilt law professor, says they will likely follow the lead of other recent federal court cases around the country.

“Every court that’s addressed it since the Windsor case has held that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, and that states have to recognize out-of-state marriages.”

The Windsor case was the one that went to the Supreme Court last year and struck down part of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Sixth Circuit’s decision could affect only the three Tennessee couples who sued the state. But since the court is ruling on several other cases, the impact could be broader.

Meanwhile, the Family Action Council of Tennessee says it is praying for the judges to uphold a Biblical definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

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